The microtubule-nucleating activity of centrosomes was analyzed in fibroblastic (Vero) and in epithelial cells (PtK2, Madin-Darby canine kidney [MDCK]) by double-immunofluorescence labeling with anti-centrosome and antitubulin antibodies. Most of the microtubules emanated from the centrosomes in Vero cells, whereas the microtubule network of MDCK cells appeared to be noncentrosome nucleated and randomly organized. The pattern of microtubule organization in PtK2 cells was intermediate to the patterns observed in the typical fibroblastic and epithelial cells. The two centriole cylinders were tightly associated and located close to the nucleus in Vero and PtK2 cells. In MDCK cells, however, they were clearly separated and electron microscopy revealed that they nucleated only a few microtubules. The stability of centrosomal and noncentrosomal microtubules was examined by treatment of these different cell lines with various concentrations of nocodazole. 1.6 microM nocodazole induced an almost complete depolymerization of microtubules in Vero cells; some centrosome nucleated microtubules remained in PtK2 cells, while many noncentrosomal microtubules resisted that treatment in MDCK cells. Centrosomal and noncentrosomal microtubules regrew in MDCK cells with similar kinetics after release from complete disassembly by high concentrations of nocodazole (33 microM). During regrowth, centrosomal microtubules became resistant to 1.6 microM nocodazole before the noncentrosomal ones, although the latter eventually predominate. We suggest that in MDCK cells, microtubules grow and shrink as proposed by the dynamic instability model but the presence of factors prevents them from complete depolymerization. This creates seeds for reelongation that compete with nucleation off the centrosome. By using specific antibodies, we have shown that the abundant subset of nocodazole-resistant microtubules in MDCK cells contained detyrosinated alpha-tubulin (glu tubulin). On the other hand, the first microtubules to regrow after nocodazole removal contained only tyrosinated tubulin. Glu-tubulin became detectable only after 30 min of microtubule regrowth. This strongly supports the hypothesis that alpha-tubulin detyrosination occurs primarily on "long lived" microtubules and is not the cause of the stabilization process. This is also supported by the increased amount of glu-tubulin that we found in taxol-treated cells.

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